The Livable Communities Coalition

Working to improve Atlanta's quality of life through smart growth

Myth-busters: Transit is no longer relevant.

Conservative transit advocate Bill Lind outlines 12 anti-transit myths at the Atlanta Sustainable Roundtable in June. Lind maintains that transit is not only relevant but also experiencing a renaissance in the U.S. with cities such as Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Salt Lake City and St. Louis establishing successful light rail service in recent years.

Excerpted from Moving Minds: Conservatives and Public Transportation by Paul M. Weyrich and William S. Lind.

Anti-transit myth 2: Transit is a declining industry.

In general, the facts are these. From the advent of the Model T until quite recently, transit was a declining industry. This is not surprising, because government offered massive subsidies to cars and highways. Most transit systems were privately owned and operated and, far from receiving subsidies, had to pay taxes. As is usually the case, government intervention caused massive market distortions, to the point of almost wiping out public transit.

But recent years have seen a change. Beginning in 1996, transit’s total ridership has risen every year. In 1999 and 2000, the growth in trips on transit actually increased more than the growth in trips by automobile travel.

A new pattern is emerging, in one city after another. Once the first light rail line opens and people experience the high-quality service it offers, they want more. Referenda to expand the light rail system or speed up construction usually pass, often by large margins.

Dallas offers a good example. There, the people faced a ballot referendum on speeding up the construction of light rail. Despite the usual descent on the city by the anti-transit troubadors, the referendum passed by 77 percent.


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